Responsible Fireworks Use

Guidance on using appropriate fireworks and in a neighbour friendly way.

Since my launch of this website in 1999, I have always pushed responsible fireworks use as the only way to enjoy pyro. Although in many ways this approach is simply common sense, it is worth running through various things you should think about before letting fireworks off. 

Things to consider

Unless you are firing quiet fireworks (and there are absolutely loads of great ones now available, more on that later) or firing at a very remote site, your fireworks could have an impact on the people around you. Generally, the UK population is quite tolerant to fireworks due to them being a part of Bonfire Night and New Year celebrations for a very long time. Nonetheless, a minority of situations warrant care. These could include:

  • Using fireworks out of Bonfire Night season or late at night.
  • Disturbing neighbours who are not expecting fireworks, especially in built up areas.
  • Using fireworks inappropriate for your location, such as big rockets if the sticks will land on someone else’s land.
  • Disturbing livestock, horses and farm animals.

In my experience (plus considerable feedback from other enthusiasts) it can be taken for granted that fireworks are pretty much expected by everyone in the following cases:

  • Bonfire Night (November 5th) and the weekend before and after (especially Saturdays, for community and organised events).
  • Halloween is becoming more popular as a joint party and fireworks event.
  • New Year’s Eve.

Some wedding venues may stage displays at weekends and these will be well known to locals. (Essentially, locals are either happy or not, if unhappy the venue will often only allow quiet fireworks).

In the above cases you may not need to give your neighbours advance warning of your display, but you may still want to in the spirit of friendliness and responsible use.

Fireworks are less likely to be expected in the following cases:

  • Displays away from the dates above. No-one would be expecting fireworks mid-February, for example.
  • Unexpected late night displays generally don’t go down too well.
Quiet fireworks
There are now a significant number of low noise fireworks available if you need to keep the noise down, such as these silver star candles.

Making an effort to mitigate disturbance

If your display could cause an issue there are many simple things you can do to mitigate the effects. These include:

Notify neighbours well in advance of your planned display

A letter through the door, a friendly chat or a message via social media. It also helps in many cases to invite your neighbours to your display! Warning your neighbours is especially important with out of season displays such as birthdays or other occasions where the use of fireworks might come as a surprise.

Farmers, horse owners and other keepers of animals and livestock are, in my experience, a very friendly and approachable group. Whilst not all of them like fireworks, they are more often than not hugely appreciative of advance warning about displays so they can move animals if required. And if they can’t move the animals and your display could cause problems, wouldn’t you rather know so you can adjust the display accordingly (such as using low noise fireworks, or finding a different site)?

Fire at an appropriate time

Clearly you need it to be dark for fireworks but if you’re firing in winter there is no need to fire at 10pm when it gets dark much earlier. The earlier your display, the less of an issue it is likely to be.

Also consider that whilst people might not be bothered by fireworks at 8pm on Saturday, they might be on a Sunday if there’s work and school the following day.

Use quieter fireworks

Not every firework bangs. Why not consider quieter fireworks? See below for more advice on this.

Keep your display short

If you’re using fireworks away from Bonfire Night, try and keep your display short. Although it doesn’t sound a long time, the sweet-spot for a good display is around 5 minutes. Firing for 10 or 20 minutes or longer is something you should only consider on a night when fireworks would be expected. Unless that is, you know all of your neighbours, are very remote, or it’s an organised event the community would be aware of due to advance publicity.

And why not go even shorter? For a birthday or similar celebration then a single big barrage (where you light one fuse and get a few minutes of pyro) is not only simpler and safer, but it’ll be over by the time anyone has an issue.

The legal situation

The various firework laws are covered in more detail in my Firework Laws & Regulations summary, but in brief:

  • You must let your fireworks off by 11pm (but please, consider doing it much earlier) except on November 5th (midnight).
  • New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali also have a 1am curfew.
  • You must let off your fireworks in your own garden or land, or elsewhere only with permission. It is illegal to let them off in the street. You also shouldn’t let them off in parks and recreation areas without permission.
  • It is fully legal both to buy and to let off fireworks any day of the year. The “fireworks period” from mid-October onwards relates only to a period when seasonal retailers are allowed to sell fireworks. However, specialist shops will have an all-year licence to sell fireworks at any time.
  • It is also legal to store consumer fireworks at home (for private use), though if storing a lot of fireworks or for a long time then check out the legal limits for this.

Quiet and low noise fireworks

In recent years there has been a huge increase in both the number and quality of low noise fireworks available to the consumer. This has been driven by a significantly increased demand from the UK public to stage quieter displays, especially away from Bonfire Night.

It should be noted that few fireworks can be completely silent because an effect in many cases has to be launched into the air which requires the detonation of a lifting charge. However quiet fireworks are those whose main effect doesn’t bang. For aerial effects from barrages, these can include pretty coloured stars, comets, glitter, crackles (great for some noise but without bangs), crossettes, falling leaves and so on. The sound from these is minimal and won’t travel very far.

Other types of firework such as fountains are ground-based and don’t bang, plus you have a whole range of other things to consider from sparklers to novelty items.

The video below is an example of a no-bangs fan cake. As you can see it’s very pretty, despite not containing any bangs.

Head over to my extensive Quiet Fireworks article for more help.

In summary

Bonfire night, the surrounding weekends and New Year’s Eve are great times to have a blast and use loud fireworks. But away from those periods, consider using lower noise fireworks or keeping your display shorter.

Let neighbours know about your plans, especially animal owners. Fire earlier in the evening rather than later and be aware of, and comply with, UK firework laws.

Talk to your fireworks supplier about lower noise fireworks; an extensive range is now available.